Circle The Netherlands’ Gooimeer by cycle: Naarden to Almere to Naarden, anti-clockwise

The Gooimeer (Gooi Lake) is a semi-enclosed semi-circular body of freshwater in the north of The Netherlands, a locality which is known as het Gooi or simply ‘t Gooi.

In the past there was the Zuiderzee, a shallow bay of the North Sea that extended about 100km inland and 50km wide, with an overall depth of only 4 to 5 metres. In the 20th century, the majority of the Zuiderzee was closed off from the North Sea by construction of the Afsluitdijk (literally, ‘enclosing dyke’), leaving only the mouth of the inlet to remain part of the sea.

The saltwater inlet changed into a freshwater lake called the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake), named after the river that drains into the lake. By a combination of drainage channels and polders (tracts of low-lying land reclaimed from the sea), an area of some 1,500 km2 was created as arable land. The Ijsselmeer thus became an importance source of drinking water for Amsterdam and north Holland generally.

At the western tip of the semi-circle is a railroad bridge connecting Weesp on the southern side of Gooimeer with the modern city of Almere on the northern side. There is a parallel highway bridge, the Hollandse Brug (Holland Bridge), including a cycleway separated from the traffic, known as the A6. The eastern tip of the semi-circle is crossed by two parallel highway bridges, also with a separated cycleway, known as the A27.

The Gooimeer is one of several interconnecting bodies of water that form a full circle. To the left of the Gooimeer is IJmeer and clockwise from there are Markermeer and IJsselmeer, which directly faces the North Sea. To the right of the Gooimeer is Eemmeer and clockwise from there are Wolderwijd, Veluwemeer and then Ketelmeer which connects with IJsselmeer to complete the circle. Some of these waterways were formed by construction of the Noordoostpolder (North-east Polder) and the Oostelijk Flevoland (East Flevoland) polder, tracts of low-lying land reclaimed from the sea.

According to Wikipedia, the Gooimeer has an association with the crash of El Al Flight 1862 on 4 October 1992. The two right-hand side jet engines separated from the Boeing 747 cargo aircraft and fell into the Gooimeer, witnessed by a fishing police officer. Flight 1862 continued for 8 minutes until it crashed into the Groeneveen and Klein-Kruitberg apartments in the Bijlmermeer neighbourhood in south Amsterdam. The crash is known in Dutch as the Bijlmerramp (Bijlmer disaster).

Official statistics report that 43 people were killed – including the three crew members, a non-paying passenger in a jump seat, and 39 people on the ground. The exact number of people killed on the ground is disputed, as the building had a large number of illegal immigrants at the time of the crash.

Naarden is on the south bank of Gooimeer and it is here that I began my route, cycling the circle in an anti-clockwise direction. I first passed Naarden Vesting (Fortress Naarden) which quickly brought me to the southern shore of Gooimeer and from here I followed fietspaden (bike paths) in a generally north-east direction. These took me through 5km of mature forest in the vicinity of Valkeveen (where I remembered to activate my tracker app) and then onto the harbour town of Huizen which has a population of about 42,000.

The Dutch term huizen means ‘houses’ and it is thought the town is so named because the first stone houses in the region were built here. I stopped to take photographs of a sign illustrating the range of sea birds found in marshlands and on waterways near the commercial pier, an elegant brick building containing a pancake restaurant, and the marina for pleasure craft. It is pretty here.

I departed the harbour area by heading south along Havenstraat and then eastward on Bestevaer. At the second roundabout which is a T-junction beside a canal, I turned left into Zuiderzee which angled eastward and became Zuiderzeeboulevard. The Gooimeer is again visible to my left. I moved onto Delta, a local through road, which has a dedicated cycle lane which sometimes peters out and re-starts as the road weaves multiple lefts and rights towards the south-east.

Delta then crosses the north-south Aanloophaven canal and becomes Bovenmaatseweg. I turned left into Zuidwal in an attempt to get closer to the Gooimeer foreshore but found myself land-locked in a residential estate of drab two-storey homes. I made a few turns but found myself re-tracing my path. I then consulted my tracker app to establish my whereabouts  find a way back to Bovenmaatseweg and decided to continue on its eastward trajectory.

The suburban neighbourhood is quiet and no one is to be seen. I heard a gradually approaching vehicle from behind and as it moved beside me I noticed that the vehicle was deliberately positioned in the paint-marked cycle lane in an apparent attempt to nudge me. When it had barely passed me, the vehicle continued for some time entirely in the cycle lane. I got thinking that if I had been directly hit by the vehicle or otherwise fallen no one would have seen the incident. I was rather shocked by this experience – it was the first time and so far only time I had encountered Dutch driving behaviour which deliberately threatened a cyclist.

I collected my thoughts and continued along Bovenmaatseweg but as the road pointed south I turned east into Aristoteleslaan and passed extensive sporting fields. The street then became Stroomzijde and then Floris V Dreef where it intersected with the elevated A27. For some reason I turned right and headed south and then turned east to pass under the A27 in search of the cycle lane that would take me northward. But I found myself on polders of farmland for as far as the eye could see and realised then that the cycleway must be on the other side of the A27, from where I had come. So I made a U-turn and returned to the intersection of Floris V Dreef and the overhead A27.

Following other cyclists, I rode onto Deltazijde and was glad to find that it inclined upward to the level of the A27 on a pathway named Stichtse Brug and then onto the broad bridge that crosses Gooimeer to the left and Eemmeer to the right. The pathway now becomes Stichtse Pad and I cruised the long straight decent to ground level on the northern shore of Gooimeer. The land is flat and treeless, signs of reclamation, which made it easy to pick out a route forward.

I chose the first road that headed west, Rhijnauwen. It soon morphed into Lijsterweg which borders a developing industrial estate at Stichtsekant. Kilometres later, the smooth bitumen pavement in Lijsterweg came to an end and turned into Meesweg which passes through lightly forested parkland known as Cirkelbos, which contains criss-crossing bike and walking paths. It is relaxing here, quiet and remote.

Within the forest, I noticed a signpost to Almere Centrum and followed the arrow-point in a northerly direction. The Groenlingweg fietspad folded east, beside the oddly-named canal Waterlandse Tocht (Waterland Tour) which lies east-west. Ducks relax beside the pathway and I stopped to take a photograph, but they flew into the water and paddled away.

The pathway coursed into Michauxpad and led me into Waterlandsebos, an area of native parks and gardens. At a small pedestrian bridge which fords the intersecting Lange Wetering (Long Waterway) canal, I glimpsed the potential ‘photograph of the day’ and took a shot. I continued westward alongside Waterlandse Tocht for many kilometres, revelling in the relaxed cycling conditions.

On my right is still the canal, but now on my left are relatively modern housing estates, signs of suburban Almere. The population of Almere and surroundings is 220,000 and there are firm plans to expand to 350,000 inhabitants by 2030. Where the canal intersects with Vrijheidsdreef, I observed another signpost to Almere Centrum and followed that, turning left.

The pathway entered Hanny Schaftpark, a lovely urban greenspace with a large lake, right on the edge of the Centrum. I rode around the shopping district for a brief look and then, after checking my tracker app for a better location for a rest and food, headed for Weerwater, a small artificial lake in a newish commercial precinct.

For this outward leg, I cycled 39km in 2h10m at an average 18km/h (not including the first 6km which was accidentally unrecorded).

After a short lunchbreak, my cycling journey resumed. I started out by following the western edge of Weerwater into the neighbourhood of Stedenwijk and then onto the southern-most point of Weerwater. Keeping on fietspaden, I crossed over Sturneyweg to pick up Farflerpad which nicely led through a park – the Vroege Vogelbos – which had a small canal on my left. I continued into and then through Kromslootpark, another greenspace. Now a small canal, Rechte Wetering (Straight Waterway), is on my right.

I made a dogleg to the right into Gooimeerdijk-West which folded into the east-side pathway up towards the deck of the elevated Hollandse Brug. This led me under the deck, then into a corkscrew upwards onto the cycleway that lies on the western side of the bridge. Another corkscrew on the other side of the Gooimeer took me down to ground level, into IJsselmeerweg that becomes Naarderstraatweg.

When I arrived at the straight-line canal linking Naarden Vesting to my left with the sea-facing waterways at the historic township of Muiden towards my right, I branched to the right and followed Naarderstraatweg until reaching Hakkelaarsbrug (Hakkelaars Bridge) where I continued straight ahead along Zuidpolderweg to get to Muiden for the last time on this trip to The Netherlands.

At Muiden I looped right into Vestingplein and right again across the lovely little bridge into Zuiderzeeboulevard which brought me onto the other side of the Naarden Vesting to Muiden canal. Now the canal is on my right and on my left is an expanse of rolling farmland made from polders.

A few hundred metres along I turned left into Noordepolderweg and rode along the quiet farm road that bisects the polders. I followed this northward until the shoreline of the IJmeer and gradually turned right to trace the shoreline in an easterly direction, riding along Zuiderzeeboulevard which became Dijkweg. Several kilometres on I arrive at the village of Muiderberg and turned left to the local Spar supermarket in Dorpsstraat for an ice cream.

Shortly before my arrival, an elderly man had fallen outside the store and he was being monitored by caring passers-by. While enjoying my ice cream in another section of the forecourt, a siren sound was heard whereupon a Police vehicle promptly arrived. Within minutes, another siren sound was heard from a different direction. I expected that to be an ambulance but the arriving vehicle was Police also.

By now I had finished my ice cream and decided it was time to depart for Naarden. I followed Dorpsstraat back out of the village and, instead of turning right into Dijkweg, I chose the direct route via Googweg. When more siren sounds were heard ahead, I pulled over for two oncoming ambulances at speed. It struck me as peculiar that as many as two police vehicles and two ambulances were called out to attend to an elderly man suffering abrasions from a fall outside a shop.

No sooner had I re-mounted my bike that I realised I was at the entrance gates to Joodse Begraafplaats (Jewish Cemetery), the largest Jewish cemetery in The Netherlands. This cemetery was founded in 1642 by German Jews and merged with the adjacent Polish Jewish cemetery founded in 1660. Checking later, I learnt that buried here are nine persons with my surname and one person with my father’s mother’s surname. I vowed to return here on a future visit to The Netherlands, armed with information about these people who are buried here. Perhaps they are relatives?

When Googweg terminated at Hakkelaarsbrug, I turned left into Naardervaart for the roll home. Several kilometres on, I crossed under the elevated A1, stopped to peer at two camels tethered there and then continued until reaching the Naarden town limit where Naardervaart becomes Rijksweg. I followed this into Konig Wilhelminalaan towards my destination but, when approaching the now familiar Alexanderlaan turnoff, I decided to visit old town Naarden and Naarden Vesting one last time on this trip. On a late summer’s afternoon, I took photographs of the fortress structures from yet another angle. I dwelt a little, but now it was time to return to my relatives.

For this inward leg, I cycled 31km in 1h41m, also at an average 18km/h. I was pleased to have navigated myself to new places, and back, with relative ease. Cycling in The Netherlands is so so enjoyable.

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